Due motivi per rimanere in fiore

di Roxas-Chua, adottato dalle Filippine negli USA; autore, artista.

Per molte persone adottate l'adozione è traumatica. Non sono così lineare nella mia condivisione della storia perché non posso rimanere a lungo a respirare quell'atmosfera. Scelgo scrittura, calligrafia e arte per lavorare sulla mia storia. Poiché non ho avuto una buona nascita, mi piacerebbe avere la possibilità di avere una buona morte. Sono su un percorso che ricostruisce da forme mozzate e pezzi invisibili. È un percorso in cui costruisci dalle tue illuminazioni trovate. È un posto in cui sono un neonato, un ragazzo e un uomo che accadono tutti allo stesso tempo. Scrivere e fare arte non sono facili anche se sembra che lo sia. Ecco le verità raccontate in due astrazioni, due lividi quando i miei sensi proiettano una posizione del dolore all'interno del corpo. Non c'è bisogno di mettere in discussione le storie di persone adottate o abbandonate da bambini quando non si adattano alle narrazioni di benessere della società e dei media. Ti chiedo di ascoltare, vedere e sederti con me quando ti apro il mio corpo.

Ascoltando Piccole Cose di Ida – https://youtu.be/pmrsYPypQ

Vedi il blog precedente di Roxas-Chua: Se la luna potesse essere la mia madre natale adesso

Per di più da Roxas-Chua, guarda il loro podcast Caro qualcuno da qualche parte e prenota Dire il tuo nome tre volte sott'acqua.

Un Adottivo condivide la terapia EMDR

di Gabriela Paulsen, adopted from Romania to Denmark.

EMDR Therapy Changed My Life!

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy for me, involved the therapist moving 2 fingers in front of my head so the eyes are moving side to side, while I was thinking about a trauma event. The stimuli can also be something I hold in my hand which is vibrating or it can be tapping done by the therapist. The eye movements help the brain to take up the trauma and reprocess it again, so it does not disturb me in daily life. During the eye movements, I sometimes had different reactions such as crying or maybe some body sensations like getting hot or fast breathing because my body experiences the trauma event again. There can many kind of different reactions and the tricky part is that I had no idea how I would react until I tried it!

In my case, I wanted to work with a trauma I had from my time in Romania as an orphan, I think it was from the orphanage, but I am not completely sure as it could also be a memory from my time in hospital.

My trauma was a memory I only got when I was sleeping and when the trauma was about to occur it felt like I might pass out and loose control. In that moment I knew that I would relive the trauma event again. I experienced the nightmare quite often as a teenager. The last time it happened, was around 10 years ago, just before I turned 17-18 years old. The trauma event felt extremely real. I was very scared and after I woke up, I was completely paralysed with fear. I had always thought this was something real, so when my therapist recommended EMDR therapy for me, I said yes and we started to work with this trauma. I only have my nightmare to work from, so it was not much. I had absolutely no idea whether I would react or not and it was actually quite difficult to think about such an old memory during the eye movements!

Session 1
On my first session of EMDR, it took a while before I started to react. I started to sit as if paralysed, I could only look straight forward and talked more slowly because it felt like I was put into a hypnotic state of mind. I then started to remember more of the trauma and I starting to breath faster even though it felt like I was holding my breath. My body was definitely starting to prepare for the trauma event memories and I felt very alert.

After that session, my brain continued to work with the trauma, which is expected. I could feel it because I was very alert, I was scared of being in a dark room and of some gloves I had because they are a symbol of a hand. During a work day, there was a potentially dangerous situation of a woman who was very threatening towards one of my colleagues, who reacted with aggression. I got extremely tense because of that and I was breathing like hell because I was ready to fight. It was a huge and shocking reaction I had and I couldn’t talk properly because of my breathing, so I had to take 5 minutes break to calm myself.

Session 2
I had problems getting my mind to go back into the trauma so my therapist and I had a short break from the eye movements to relax and help me get back into it. After a while I started to react with the paralysed / hypnotic state of mind and quick breathing but within myself, it felt silent and it appears like I am not breathing. After a while, I wanted to move my arm but directly afterwards I regretted this because I immediately felt like I did something wrong. Later, I started to remember more, it was like a part of me was revisiting the traumatic event. It was very interesting to explore because I got new information about my trauma. After going deeper and deeper into the trauma my breathing got faster and faster and suddenly I felt like I was about to break down into tears. I continued for a few minutes more and then I stopped doing the eye movements because I got very sad, I was crying and then my breathing was changing to be very big and deep, from within my stomach. I could feel my bones in my back so much from the heavy breathing. During this, I experienced the most insane feelings inside of me whilst my tears were running freely.

I didn’t understand at the time what happened because my brain was in the present and yet my body was reliving the trauma I had experienced. It was very hard to feel the trauma again. I thought that I must have looked like a person getting raped or tortured. It was a completely insane experience and afterwards I felt very confused about what happened and I asked my therapist to explain it to me.

Afterwards, I was extremely tired and my whole body felt very heavy. My muscles in my arms felt like they had lifted something way too heavy! I was also very alert and the rest of the day and the next 3-4 days, I was in this stressful state of mind. I would feel suddenly deep sorrow and tiredness several times a day without knowing why. It was literally like something was hurting inside me several times a day and like something wanted to come out of my body but I was with family, so I worked very hard to not break down and at the same time, I felt like I couldn’t get the emotions out either. It was very confusing. I also started to not like high noises and I felt scared if there where many people too close around me, like when I was on public transport. I usually do not have such problems. I was still scared of darkness and sometimes I got scared without knowing why. One of the times I was scared I was thinking about the woman who had caused my trauma.

I felt like I didn’t want to sleep after I have my nightmare about my trauma, because I was so scared!

Session 3
After 3 weeks, I was going to do EMDR again and I was very nervous and exciting about what would happened. The night before therapy I had a very short nightmare again which had not happened for around 10 years! This time, it was like I was further in the trauma event as compared to in the past, I had only ever dreamed as if I was at the beginning. In the nightmare some people were about to do something that I definitely didn’t like and I was thinking “stop”, so the nightmare ended extremely short. It felt like a few seconds but it was enough for me to feel again how I actually felt during the trauma event from years past. The next day, I was very stressed and actually scared.

During EMDR therapy session after this, I felt like my eyes were working against me, not wanting to participate. So I talked with my therapist about how I had completely closed down because of the nightmare. I didn’t have huge reactions during that session nor the next 2 sessions. In the last EMDR session, I could nearly get the image of the trauma event in my mind and I no longer felt scared – it was as if the trauma no longer affected me as powerfully as before. Between the sessions, I have felt very bad mentally but one day, it was like gone completely and I felt much happier, more relaxed and not as chronically tense. I also stopped having problems sleeping in a dark room – in the past, a completely dark room signalled that the re-lived trauma would occur.

In the past and prior to doing EMDR therapy, I would get anxiety from the outside getting dark, or having many people around me and high noises. Now all of these things are no longer a problem so I feel like I can go on living as myself once again. My friends have also told me that I seem more relaxed and most importantly, I feel a huge difference in my life!

I can highly recommend EMDR therapy for adoptees especially when it comes to trauma that the body remembers. I feel like I have healed my body and let out a terrible experience. Before EMDR therapy, I didn’t understand that my body was reliving such huge trauma all the time and how much it was impacting me.

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Trovare la giusta terapia da adottante

Screening for an adoption competent therapist

Cosa c'è in un nome?

di Stephanie Dong Hee Kim, adottato dalla Corea del Sud nei Paesi Bassi.

Un nome è solo "ma" un nome?

Il significato delle parole e del linguaggio è molto più di una raccolta di lettere, segni o suoni.

Parole e suoni hanno un significato, questi sono simboli, riflettono sentimenti e pensieri. Un nome esprime la tua identità: chi sei, da dove vieni e chi e dove appartieni (a)?

Domande che non hanno una risposta ovvia per molti adottati e per ogni persona che sta cercando entrambi o uno dei loro genitori naturali.

Sono stata concepita e cresciuta fino a diventare un essere umano nel grembo di mia madre coreana, come quarta figlia della famiglia Kim (김), ei miei genitori mi hanno chiamato Dong-Hee (동희) dopo la mia nascita.

Sono stato adottato da una famiglia olandese e ho avuto un nuovo nome e anche un nuovo cognome. Ultimamente, per me questo ha iniziato a sembrare come "sovrascrivere" la mia identità e non mi sento più senang per questo.

Mi vedo sempre più come una donna coreana cresciuta nei Paesi Bassi e di nazionalità olandese. La mia identità coreana è il mio background e costituisce una parte importante di ciò che sono, anche se non sono cresciuto in quella cultura.

C'è una leggera differenza tra come mi sento riguardo al mio nome e come mi sento per il mio cognome.

Sono grato che i miei genitori adottivi non mi abbiano mai portato via 동희 e abbiano appena aggiunto Stephanie in modo che la mia vita qui fosse più facile. Al giorno d'oggi è ancora più facile avere un nome occidentale, dal momento che la discriminazione non è scomparsa nel corso degli anni.

Sento sempre di più che la mia parentela e il mio background coreano sono dove voglio che il mio cognome si riferisca, sono orgoglioso di essere un membro della famiglia 김.

Sento meno legame con il cognome olandese, perché non condivido alcuna storia familiare culturale e biologica con questo nome e le persone che lo portano. Inoltre, non ci sono mai stati molti contatti o legami con nessuno di quei membri della famiglia, a parte il mio padre adottivo ei miei fratelli.

Ecco perché ho deciso di abituarmi a cosa vuol dire farmi conoscere con i miei nomi coreani, a cominciare dai social. Solo per sperimentare cosa mi fa, se mi fa sentire più me stesso e al suo posto.

Vorrei che le persone iniziassero a sentirsi a proprio agio nel chiamarmi con uno dei miei nomi. Penso che mi aiuterà a capire quali nomi mi ricordano di più chi sono veramente, mi fanno sentire a casa. Forse è uno di loro, forse sono entrambi. Sto bene con tutti i risultati.

È in qualche modo scomodo per me perché mi sembra di togliermi una giacca e con ciò sono un po' esposto e vulnerabile.

Ma va bene, dal momento che mi identifico con i miei nomi olandesi da più di 42 anni.

Questo è stato originariamente pubblicato su Instagram e redatto per la pubblicazione su ICAV.

risorse

Cosa c'è in un nome? Identità, rispetto, proprietà?

Il mio viaggio di adozione

di Anna Grundström, adottato dall'Indonesia alla Svezia.

Non molto tempo fa pensavo alla mia adozione non come un viaggio, ma una meta. Sono finito dove sono finito, ed era chiaro fin dall'inizio che non ci sarebbero mai state risposte al perché. Le mie domande sono passate in secondo piano e sono rimaste lì per anni, osservando una corsa a cui non mi legavo, i miei inizi.

Circa due anni fa, in qualche modo sono passato dal sedile posteriore al sedile del conducente e ho messo entrambe le mani sul volante. Anche se non c'erano ancora risposte alle mie domande, mi sono reso conto che potevo ancora farle.

Sono arrivato a capire che chiedere non significa sempre ottenere una risposta sbagliata o giusta, o addirittura una risposta, in cambio. Chiedere significa riconoscere me stesso, i miei pensieri e sentimenti. Dare il permesso di chiedersi ad alta voce, di essere sconvolti, arrabbiati e frustrati. Per riconoscere la perdita di cose, luoghi e persone. E a volte ci sono risposte, così sottili che quasi mi mancano: come notare come mi lamento quando il sole sorge per la prima volta al mattino, o come un particolare senso di desiderio mi pervade la schiena quando inalo un profumo casuale.

C'è qualcosa nel riconoscere la perdita del nostro passato come adottati, nominarlo, incarnarlo, anche se non sappiamo perché o come. Da qualche parte all'interno del nostro corpo lo sappiamo. Da qualche parte nel corpo è tutto ancora lì. Festeggiare, soffrire e accettare: fa tutto parte del mio viaggio di adozione.

Anna offre laboratori creativi e di movimento guidato per gli adottati: dai un'occhiata a lei sito web per vedere cosa sta succedendo!

Cultura Pop e Gente di Colore

di Benjamin Kelleher, nato in Brasile di origini africane e adottato in Australia.

La cultura pop e la sete di TV americanizzata e la visione dei media hanno mascherato, diluito o interferito con il processo di adozione transrazziale che si collega alla loro storia biologica?

Ciò che ha acceso il mio interrogatorio sul colosso dei media è stato il recente passaggio di una data importante nella mia stessa eredità. 13 maggio 2022 ha segnato il 134° anniversario del giorno in cui il Brasile ha ufficialmente abolito la schiavitù. Essendo un afro-brasiliano adottato dall'estero, puoi immaginare il mio interesse per il movimento per i diritti civili, il movimento Black Lives Matter (BLM) e qualsiasi argomento che copra la storia moderna della grande diaspora africana e questa data in particolare.

Ma potresti chiedere, perché la mia domanda iniziale? Ebbene, quello che alcuni potrebbero non sapere, è il fatto che mentre le stime variano da fonte a fonte, circa 40% degli africani sono stati rimossi e ricollocati con la forza ai nuovi mondi durante la tratta degli schiavi transatlantica finito in Brasile al contrario del 10% ricevuto dagli Stati Uniti. Un altro fatto è che mentre la Gran Bretagna ha messo fuori legge la schiavitù nel 1807, gli Stati Uniti nel 1865, il Brasile è stato ufficialmente l'ultimo del mondo occidentale ad abolire la schiavitù nel 1888. Quindi, in sostanza, mentre il presidente Lincoln stava liberando gli schiavi negli Stati Uniti, il Brasile ha avuto altri 23 anni di tagli economici, sulle spalle degli africani.

Con la morte di George Floyd e il movimento BLM che ha colpito TV, telefoni e qualsiasi cosa con uno schermo nel 2020, la difficile situazione dell'uomo di colore è stata nuovamente portata nella visione del mondo e un punto di discussione per molti in tutto il mondo. Molti hanno nuovamente guardato agli Stati Uniti con le sopracciglia alzate per quanto riguarda il trattamento istituzionalizzato delle persone di colore (POC). Nel corso dell'anno successivo il movimento BLM ha preso forma in molti paesi. Quello su cui certamente non ricordo di aver visto alcun rapporto, era il fatto che nel 2021, secondo il Washington Post, 56% della popolazione brasiliana erano neri ma costituivano 79% di morti per mano della polizia nello stesso anno. Il 2021 ha visto anche 67% della popolazione carceraria indicati come neri.

Essendo stato adottato in Australia, a volte sono alquanto perplesso che possiamo avere una tale pletora di film, libri, documentari, blog e podcast che alimenteranno il bisogno di conoscenza su questo argomento quando si parla specificamente della storia americana. Tuttavia, per trovare lo stesso livello di informazioni su paesi come il Brasile, o anche la storia australiana di come abbiamo trattato i nostri indigeni e POC, bisogna essere disposti a scavare un po' di più e lavorare sulle gambe.

Parlando da una prospettiva di adozione transrazziale, posso vedere come ciò non influirebbe in modo significativo sui miei coetanei di carnagione anglosassone. Tuttavia, per quelli di noi, che a volte possono aver lottato o trovato difficile stabilire connessioni con la nostra storia biologica e in una certa misura l'identità, questo sembra costituire un altro ostacolo sulla strada delle complessità che possono essere l'esperienza vissuta dell'adozione internazionale.

Quindi, ancora una volta, concludo il mio sfogo chiedendo, stiamo perdendo un maggiore senso della storia mondiale e restringendo il nostro campo di vista quando si tratta della storia di una moltitudine di etnie e POC nel tentativo di continuare a divorare la cultura pop americana attraverso i media e come sottoprodotto, sono le viste storiche?

Puoi seguire Benjamin @ Insta su il_tranquillo_adottato o controlla la sua breve intervista un giro Risorsa video.

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Africa ridotta in schiavitù

Compleanni di adozione

di Maars, portato dalle Filippine al Canada. Puoi seguire Maars @BlackSheepMaars

I compleanni sono difficili per un adottato.

È un ricordo del giorno in cui mi è stata data la vita. È un promemoria di ciò che una madre e un padre potevano solo sognare per me.

Tuttavia, in adozione, quei sogni sono di breve durata e qualcun altro ne sogna uno nuovo per me, ma non è mai garantito. Non tutti i sogni portano la stessa intenzione e amore e questo è vero in molti modi per me che ho perso i miei genitori naturali.

Ma ora sogno per me stesso, e sono io che mi reclamo.

Mentre rifletto oggi, quali sono stati 34 anni, piango ancora quel bambino con quel sorriso, quanto non sapeva sarebbe stato davanti a lei. Quanta perdita e dolore avrebbe dovuto superare con il passare degli anni e la perdita di tutto ciò con cui era nata.

Avrei voluto salvarla. Avrei voluto salvarla da tutti i momenti dolorosi che avrebbe dovuto affrontare e avrei potuto tenerla stretta per ogni volta che si lamentava per i suoi genitori naturali. Vorrei poterle garantire che un giorno avrebbe ritrovato tutti i suoi pezzi e che sarebbe arrivato con un diverso tipo di dolore. Vorrei sapere come essere lì per lei.

Oggi auguro a lei e a me stesso che la piccola Maars e io continuiamo a curare le ferite a cui non ha più bisogno di aggrapparsi. Mi auguro che possa trovare pace e felicità nel presente.

Alcune cose non le supero mai, altre troveranno sempre il modo di emergere. Alcune cose guariranno nel tempo.

Buon compleanno piccola Maars, stiamo andando bene!

Dai un'occhiata a un recente blog di Maars: Tanta perdita nell'adozione

Gabby Malpas sul razzismo

Il 3 aprile 2022, un gruppo di 19 adottati internazionali australiani ha partecipato a una consultazione dell'ICAV per la Commissione australiana per i diritti umani (AHRC) che hanno sviluppato un Carta concettuale per un Quadro nazionale contro il razzismo. We believe intercountry/transracial adoptees are under represented in race discussions in almost every adoptive country and wanted to make sure we had a say. Gabby’s input below is included in our full papers qui which we submitted to the AHRC.

di Gabby Malpas, born in New Zealand of Chinese origins and transracial adoptee, ICAV Representative, artist at Gabby Malpas.

Colourblind by Gabby Malpas; watercolour painting

I was born in 1966 in Auckland New Zealand. I am 100% Chinese and at the time of writing, I am 56 years old. I started coming out of the adoption fog at 48 years of age, after meeting my birth mother in 2004. It seems old but to clarify, at 48, I finally connected with other Asian adoptees and found validation, support and the language to express my feelings around my life experience.

I have a huge respect for parents. I am a step parent but have not done the heavy lifting that parents do. It’s hard being a parent. Throw adoption or fostering into the mix and that becomes very hard. Throw transracial adoption into that mix and the challenges become even more so. These are my thoughts around racism. All of our experiences are different.

I am very happy. I see the value of good relationships with friends, peers and family, and acknowledge that all of us have experienced trauma at some point in our lives. However, I have struggled with racism my entire life with my difference pointed out almost daily by classmates, co-workers and friends. Not too regularly, I have also been attacked and harassed on the street and was bullied badly throughout my school years.  Jokes and micro-aggressions seem harmless and it took me decades to understand why I was constantly angry: an innocent question about my name/my origins/my nationality seems innocuous, but day after day, often from complete strangers makes a person exhausted, wary and sad/angry. I often withdraw.

I have this to say – I could not tell you this at age 12, 18, 25, 30 or even 40. It took decades to begin to process, understand and articulate what I am feeling.

Dear adoptive parents

Here is what I would like you to know about my life experience as a transracial adoptee:

  • Please understand my life experience is, was and will always be different to that of my white peers, siblings and parents. Like it or not, quite often we transracial adoptees are treated very differently to our white siblings and peers. I noted a big change in people’s behaviour towards me when they saw one of my parents come into view. Racists are sneaky – they are not going to say stuff with you around. And it comes in many subtle forms: how many brown kids are watched like a hawk as soon as they enter a store? How many brown girls are told they talk too much or are too loud/naughty when their white classmates are termed ‘enthusiastic’ or ‘confident’ for the same behaviour?
  • I was raised colourblind. It was the 60s, 70s and 80s. We knew no better. I was 55 years old when the penny finally dropped about my own family’s response to my experience with racism. An older sister said, “But we just assumed you were one of us,” (therefore, it was impossible for you to experience racism). Another piece of the puzzle solved. However, my 7 year old me would not thank my family for the dismissal, harsh words or outright denial that anything had taken place. Things are different now. We have resources and so much information available.
  • If you are triggered by the terms: white privilege, white fragility and wilful ignorance then think long and hard before adopting a child of different race to you. We are looking to you to teach us, to have our backs and stand up for us. And this includes your circle of friends, your own family and peers. I was raised in the age where children were seen and not heard. I accepted outright racist comments/acts from neighbours, friends, extended family, and later, colleagues because I felt that it was my lot or I was undeserving of better. But think about what that does to someone over a lifetime! Is it any wonder that we adoptees are 4 times more likely to have substance abuse or suicide? Let’s try to change that.
Ching Chong by Gabby Malpas, watercolour painting
  • Believe us. I was 5 or 6 years old when I reported my first racist incident to my parents (and this was because I was scared. I didn’t report the ‘ching chong’ chants, the pulling back of eyes and harsher treatment by certain nuns because I was brown and clearly born of sin – those were a daily occurrence). Two much larger and older boys cornered me and pulled down my pants to see if ‘my bum was the same as the other girls’. Horrific and it still haunts me to this day. In response to sharing what happened, I was punished and told not to lie. So I stopped. It was clearly not safe for me to speak up and I didn’t want to be punished for it (to be fair I think it was the mention of private parts that had them more outraged). I left NZ for good in 1988. I put distance between myself and my family because of the above and some bonds were sadly broken for a while. Do you want this for your own family? If your children do not trust you to have their back they may be reticent to report more serious stuff like abuse, bullying and even date rape/domestic violence.
  • Just because we don’t tell you doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. I finally found the courage to speak up in the last two years. I cut friends, extended family members and suppliers for my own mental health and sanity but also I finally understood that I didn’t have to engage with such people.
  • Words hurt. And the hurt lasts a lifetime. So those jokes you make about other races — their food, shopping habits, hoarding, driving skills … all those lazy stereotypes that the Australian media like to peddle – well, your kids are listening.  When we see racist incidents reported be dismissed or downplayed by the media (especially if it is a footy star/ celebrity accused), how do you think that makes us feel?  We don’t need to hear:
    ‘They weren’t racist to me – are you sure it happened?’
    ‘What did you do to make them act in this way?’
    ‘Rise above it!’
    ‘Ignore it!”
    ‘Can’t you take a joke?’
    ‘I’m sure Xxxx didn’t mean to be offensive…’
    This ain’t it. Do better.
  • Quite often we are rejected by our own race – we are seen as ‘too white’, too culturally ignorant, and our names are white. This can be very confronting.
    We grow up, study, work and socialise generally in white spaces. We adapt to our environments to fit in but can be treated very harshly by our own race because of this.  A heritage camp and trip once a year can’t help with this and if we are living in a white country – it is understandable that we just want to fit in/fade into the background like everyone else. But we can’t. Don’t shame us for trying to survive in our own environments.
  • Racism is hard to process when the perpetrator looks like a member of your own family. An Asian child who grows up with their own cultural background watches how their parents react and behave when they are faced with racist incidents. They see how their parents behave and speak to the offender. Nothing may be said but there is a shared experience within the family and younger members can learn from their elders – and even grow up to challenge passive responses.

Check out Gabby’s amazing Art Mentoring that she does as a volunteer with younger Chinese adoptees.

Se la luna potesse essere la mia madre ora

di Roxas-Chua, adottato dalle Filippine negli USA; autore, artista.

Ho pensato di condividere questa immagine che si trova sul mio tavolo desktop nel mio studio. L'ho creato una di quelle notti in cui non ero in grado di attingere al cambiamento e al movimento nella mia lotta per l'adozione. Trovo che un equilibrio tra condivisione di storie, lavoro di auto-genitorialità, scrittura contemplativa e disegno mi abbia aiutato a navigare e tradurre il mondo intorno a me. In questo disegno ero accompagnata dalla luna, che in qualche modo mi dava conforto come fa la natura. Spero che vi piaccia. È un'istantanea di tenerezza che cerchiamo da noi stessi e dagli altri. Se la luna può essere la mia madre naturale ora, sto bene con quello. Prenderò qualsiasi sentiero che illumini la notte.

Per ulteriori informazioni su Roxas-Chua, guarda il loro podcast Caro qualcuno da qualche parte e prenota Dire il tuo nome tre volte sott'acqua.

America: hai reso difficile essere orgoglioso di essere asiatico-americano

by Mary Choi Robinson, adopted from South Korea to the USA

As I sit down to my laptop it is May 2, the second day of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Awareness Month and I reflect on Alice Wu’s The Half of It I watched last night to commemorate the first day of AAPI month. Watching the movie with my daughter, I thought how I wished it or something like it had been available when I was a teenager or even in my early twenties. To see an entire film focused on the life of a young Asian woman on the cusp of self-discovery and adulthood would have made me feel seen and a part of the fabric of American identity. So while this month is meant to showcase AAPI heritage I am not in fact proud to be Asian-American…yet.

I am sure my previous statement will elicit reactions from disbelief, to shock, to anger, and everything in between from varying groups of identities. So let me explain why I am not proud yet, how America made it nearly impossible for me to be proud, and how I’m gaining pride in my Asianness. As a Korean adoptee, raised by white parents in predominately-white areas, I have always navigated two racial worlds that often oppose each other and forever contradict my identity. The whiteness of my parents did not insulate or protect me from racism and in fact would even appear at home. When I first arrived to the US, my sister, my parent’s biological child, took me in as her show and tell for school with our parents’ blessing. Her all white classmates and teacher were fascinated with me and some even touched my “beautiful silky shiny jet black” hair, something that would continue into my early thirties until I realized I did non have to allow people to touch my hair. Although I start with this story, this is not a piece about being a transracial, transnational adoptee—that is for another day, maybe in November for National Adoption Awareness Month—but to illustrate how my Asian identity exists in America.

As I grew up, I rarely saw other Asians let alone interacted with them. Instead, I lived in a white world full of Barbie, blonde hair and blue eyes in movies, television shows, magazines, and classrooms. The rare times I did see Asians in person were once a year at the Chinese restaurant to celebrate my adoption day or exaggerated or exocticized caricatures in movies and tv shows. Think Mickey Rooney in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Long Duck Dong in Sixteen Candles, or Ling Ling the “exotic gem of the East” in Bewitched. Imagine instead an America where Wu’s film or To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before o Crazy Rich Asian o Fresh Off the Boat o Kim’s Convenience would have opened up for generations of Asian Americans. Rarely would I spot another Asian in the school halls. However, I could never form friendships with them, heavens no, they were real full Asians and society had taught me they were weird, ate strange smelly things, talked funny, and my inner adolescent warned me association with “them” would only make me more of an outsider, more Asian. In classrooms from K-12 and even in college, all eyes, often including the teacher, turned to me when anything about an Asian subject, regardless of whether it was about China, Vietnam, Korea, etc., as the expert to either verify or deny the material. I always dreaded when the material even had the mention of an Asian country or food or whatever and would immediately turn red-faced and hot while I rubbed my sweaty palms on my pant legs until the teacher moved on, hoping the entire time I would not be called on as an expert like so many times before.

My white family and white friends would lull me into a false sense of belonging and whiteness by association. That false sense of security would shatter when they so easily and spontaneously weaponized my Asianness against me with racial slurs during arguments. Of course, I was used to racist verbal attacks from complete strangers, I had grown up on a diet of it, but it especially pained me from friends and family. The intimacy of those relationships turned the racism into acts of betrayal. That was the blatant racism; the subtle subversive racism caused just as much damage to my sense of pride. As a young professional in my early twenties, a white colleague told me how beautiful I was “for an Asian girl.” A Latina student in one of my courses loudly and clearly stated, “The first day of class, I was so worried I wouldn’t be able to understand you and I’m so glad your English is so good!” And of course I regularly receive the always popular, “Where are you from? No, where are you really from?” Because Asian Americans, whether born here or not, are always seen as foreigners.

AAPI Awareness Month did not even become official until 1992. But anti-Asian sentiment in the US has a long history and was sealed in 1882 with the first national stance on anti-immigration that would be the catalyst for future immigration policies, better known as the Chinese Exclusion Act, coincidentally signed into law also in the month of May. In February 1942, the US rounded up and interned Japanese-Americans and Asian-Americans of non-Japanese decent after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Now in 2020 amidst the global lockdown of Covid-19, anti-Asian attacks, both verbal and physical, have increased to startling numbers. As recently as April 28, NBC News reported Over 30 percent of Americans have witnessed COVID-19 bias against Asians. Think about that—this is Americans reporting this not Asian Americans. The attacks have been worldwide but this report shows what Asian Americans are dealing with alongside the stress of the pandemic situation in the US. Keep in mind the attacks on Asian Americans are not just from white folks, indeed we’re fair game for everyone as evidenced by Jose Gomez’s attempt to murder an Asian American family including a two-year old child in Midland, Texas in March. Let that sink in—a two-year old child simply because they are Asian! Asians are being spat on, sprayed, e worse by every racial group.

To help combat this current wave of American anti-Asian sentiment, highly visible leader and former presidential candidate, Andrew Yang advised Asian Americans in a Washington Post op-ed to:

“…embrace and show our American-ness in ways we never have before. We need to step up, help our neighbors, donate gear, vote, wear red white and blue, volunteer, fund aid organizations, and do everything in our power to accelerate the end of this crisis. We should show without a shadow of a doubt that we are Americans who will do our part for our country in this time of need.”

My reaction to Mr. Yang’s response bordered on anger at the implication for Asian Americans to continue the perpetuation of the model minority myth. The danger of which, besides reinforcing divides between racial and minority groups, extols the virtue of suffer in silence. Do not make waves, keep your head down, be a “good” American. Sorry Mr. Yang, I am finally gaining pride in my Asianess and I cannot and will not stay silent any longer.

It has taken me my whole life to gain nuggets of pride in my Asian identity. Now I appreciate the color of my tan skin and dark almond-shaped eyes and no longer compare my physical beauty to white women and the standards society has forced on us all. For the first time I actually see myself, and all Asian women and men, as beautiful because of and not in spite of being Asian. I no longer avoid other Asians and cherish friendships with those who look like me. I love to explore the diversity of Asian cuisines, cultures, and traditions and continue to learn about them since, remember, “Asian” is diverse and not a monolith of just one culture. Now I speak up without fear of rejection or lack of acceptance when I witness anti-Asian or any racist behavior and use those moments as teaching opportunities whenever I can. I no longer resent not being able to pass as white. I am becoming proud to be Asian.

Read Mary’s earlier blog My Adoption Day Is An Anniversary of Loss

Sue-Yen Bylund sul razzismo

Il 3 aprile 2022, un gruppo di 19 adottati internazionali australiani ha partecipato a una consultazione dell'ICAV per la Commissione australiana per i diritti umani (AHRC) che hanno sviluppato un Carta concettuale per un Quadro nazionale contro il razzismo. Riteniamo che gli adottati internazionali/transrazziali siano sottorappresentati nelle discussioni razziali in quasi tutti i paesi adottivi e volevamo assicurarci di avere voce in capitolo. I prossimi blog saranno una selezione degli input degli adottati che hanno partecipato per dare una visione più sfumata della nostra esperienza vissuta di razzismo e dei nostri pensieri su ciò che deve essere fatto per sostenerci meglio.

di Sue-Yen Bylund, adopted from Vietnam to Australia, ICAV VIC Representative

Racism is here to stay. It is enmeshed in the very fabric of society, at every level. It manifests within us as individuals, at a systemic level pervading our policies and practices, reflected in our interpersonal behaviours and is accumulated and compounded in the base structures of our history, culture and ideology.

In order to mitigate the harm caused by racism we must be actively anti-racist. It is not enough to merely be “not racist”, as this, often results in a passive racism, which is as equally toxic as overt racism. Tolerance is a poor substitute for acceptance. Tolerance offers tokenism and indifference. Acceptance offers a place for all voices, a public validation as individuals and a genuine place at the table to self-determination.

Every person carries their racial biases differently. Acknowledgment of these biases on a personal individual level is important, however being open to listening, validating and accepting the experiences of others takes courage. 

My expectation within this forum, is to offer to an opportunity to broaden the discussion of anti-racism to embrace all forms and manifestations of racism within Australian society today. To offer encouragement to address the complex “grey” zones of racism. Through this broadening a more mature collective and inclusive voice will evolve, which I believe Australia is ready to share with the world.

The foundations of my identity lie amongst the chaos of war time Vietnam 1974. Within the first 3 weeks of my life, I experienced my initiation into the full audio and aromatic reality of war, surrounded by screaming and traumatised children and adults. Racial identity did not protect any of us from the horrors, what we all absorbed would remain forever with us as visceral burdens to tame. War and terror are the greatest levellers in stripping even the bravest to the very foundations of humanity. And then in one swift spin of the planet I would find myself a world away in the eerie quiet and calmness of Perth, Western Australia. This journey would also mark the beginning of a life’s self-education of racial fluidity. Being one heart and soul, but a chameleon of racial identities. Born of one culture, raised in another, looking as though I belong to one group, but in at my core, I belong to another, the duplicity and fluidity is complex and exhausting.

The need to feel safe, accepted, understood and validated seems to be a naturally human pursuit. As an intercountry adoptee the journey is complex and confusing. We slip into the cracks of racial stereotypes offering up apologetically a reason for inclusion or explanation for exclusion. Either way no matter where we are in our communities we are an anomaly. We are constantly offered up as a reminder that a book shouldn’t be judged by its cover and if you care to listen carefully, you will hear the simple request for safety and acceptance.

My childhood cultural identity was shaped through the lens of middle class suburban 1970’s Australia. It was fortunate that the primary school I went to attracted a good proportion of Asian immigrant families. This enabled me, at a young age to observe the “other” type of Asian. The Asian person who spoke the language, ate the food, complied with the Asian cultural norms, while they themselves were carving out the unique existence in post “White Australia Policy” era. It was clear to me from the very beginning that I was an “Asian variant”. I was to experience racial prejudice from all sides. My immediate family comprised of a white Australian adoptive mother, a white Dutch (first generation migrant) adoptive father and their two biological white sons. Straddling my home and school environments I began to acknowledge the fragmented racial identity which was uniquely mine.

I would learn to instinctively navigate the pros and cons of racial profiling expressed by adults and classmates. At times it afforded me a shield to hide behind, at other times it just bewildered me at how ignorant and entitled people could be. 

Teachers would regard me with the marginalising stereotype of female Asian student, this meant that no matter what I did, or didn’t do, I was considered polite, conscientious and studious. This enabled me to glide through my studies relatively smoothly. Where this backfired was when I would be herded together with all the Asian “look-a-likes” to be given special instructions in Chinese/Cambodian/Vietnamese. There were always a few of us that would simply shrug our shoulders, knowing it was too hard to explain to the teachers that English was in fact our only language. 

Classmate interactions were more complex. While they seemed to want to flex their insecurities through bullying behaviours, I suspect they would often leave these bullying interactions more confused and with increased insecurities about themselves. They would corner me and spit out racial slurs “Ching Chong!”, “Go back to where you came from!”, “Asians out!” with the standard accompanying slanted eye gesture. I learnt very early to lean into the bullying. To not turn away in shame or embarrassment, I summoned the  airs of entitlement I learnt from my white Australian family. It was an educational opportunity. I would not show weakness. So armed with a vocabulary not generally associated with a small Asian female of 11 years I would lean in and say with a perfect Aussie twang, “Get f***ed you immature ignorant bigot!” While they processed the response in stunned silence, I was already half down the hall or across the oval. When I think back to those times, I know in my heart I still hold a deep resentment toward those who racially vilified me. The fact I could still name those individuals today shows how deeply it affected me. I built a wall to protect myself, a tough persona that would later in life be softened with self-depreciating humour. 

Humour has become one of the most powerful tools for disarming awkwardness though it should be noted that humour can only be genuinely offered by me (the vilified) otherwise it can have the effect of adding insult or increasing alienation.

Australian society in general is getting better at navigating racially blended families. However, there have been times where an awkward visual double take or racial slur has been reconsidered once formal introductions have concluded. 

For example, my adoptive mother is the personified “white saviour” heroine and therefore in this narrative, I embody the role of a grateful saved soul. There is no place in this narrative version for reality and it only serves to perpetuate the stereotypes. This distilled classification of our relationship as an adoptive mother and daughter has resulted in a chasm of empathy where my experience of racial prejudice and marginalisation cannot be reconciled with my adoptive mother’s version of my lived experience. She cannot/will not acknowledge that I have/do experience any racial prejudice. It’s unfathomable and therefore remains a taboo subject between us. I would suggest a classic case of “colour blindness” which is the most common manifestation of passive racism. Let me strongly suggest that racial “colour blindness” is not a positive construct to build a relationship in. I don’t advocate for a monochrome world. It cancels out important conversations that need to be had to build empathy and understanding. It bypasses the integral act of individual and collective validation.

A typical interaction in a social setting with my white husband, would start with a few awkward glances while people assessed my proficiency in English. Once the conversation has warmed up a little, the question is always asked “How did you two meet each other?” At this point all newbies begin listening in the hope to hear some spectacular Tinder dating app story with me gaining Australian citizenship when we married. Sad to say the story takes an epic sad tone when it is revealed I was a baby from the Viet Nam war. The conversation moves very quickly from one set of stereotypes to another. The chameleon game is afoot. We have now moved into the Viet Nam war genre and to be honest the racial stereotypes are just as nauseating. As the conversation peters out, I am left with a very uncomfortable feeling that I might be the daughter of a B-Grade war romance story of a soldier and prostitute but on the positive side, I have ruled out that I am a “mail order bride” from Asia desperate to get my claws into a rich white “sugar daddy”. Either way, I always leave these gatherings feeling like I have shared way too much about myself, simply to justify my equal status at the table of white Australians. Needless to say, it’s exhausting and incredibly invasive. At times my inner evil chameleon just wants to re-enforce the stereotypes rather than use my life as an education case study. In the end I see curiosity is better than fear and putting examples forward and building knowledge is a slow continuous but necessary journey.

With regards to my children, I am conscious that they physically are racially ambiguous. They could have genetic origins from various backgrounds, but once I stand next to them then it becomes evident their dark features come from me and they are of Asian origins. My daughter has experienced racial slurs from having an Asian looking mother. It wasn’t until she spent her gap year in Viet Nam that she developed her own understanding of her origins. She has in fact spent more time in Viet Nam than me. 

School parent social groups are an interesting micro society and navigating them is a full-time job. In the private school my children attended I had two very distinct social groups that I interacted with. One was a group of Asian looking mothers where I felt like an honouree member. I learnt Asian cultural things and etiquette that I didn’t get elsewhere. I did a lot of listening. The other group were all Anglo-Saxon looking mothers and I was dubbed the “token” Asian (humorous chameleon!) These girlfriends understood how I saw the world. It’s in these situations that I reflect on the sophistication of my chameleon gift and in a positive moment reflect on the bridges I can construct between the groups just through listening and sharing.

There is a niche and powerful position that intercountry adoptees have in the conversation around racism and prejudice. It’s borne from the hybrid and fluid nature of our self-identities. We exist in the space between cultures and races. The triumphal story of our survival is in fact a narrative of weaving together of cultures, racial identity, tolerance and acceptance. Intercountry adoptees must reconcile the disparity between the physical and internal nature of racial identity, because at every turn we are challenging the stereotypes and presumptions. As an Asian in white Australia, we challenge the mainstream colonial stereotypes, as an Asian in Asia, we find ourselves challenging the long-held stereotypes in our birth culture. We belong to both yet neither wholly. 

If I was to consider the future of racism in context of Australia, I would continue to raise the challenge to government and individuals to embrace the complexity. Find the words, create the platforms, lead with optimism. Systemic racism embedded in the policies and practices by government and institutions needs to be constantly questioned and reviewed to ensure it leads in activating change. Structural racism that unpins mainstream think-tanks needs to be shaken loose. It is an uncomfortable and confronting task, but I believe Australia is mature enough to take this task on. Interpersonal racism is very difficult to navigate as an intercountry adoptee, but the freedom to express an alternate reality from the stereotypes is a good platform to build upon. Internalised racism is insipid and so very damaging. We want to move from passive tolerance to active validation of individuals. 

Ongoing political bi-partisan support for research and consultation is an essential investment to engage in effective societal change. A firm commitment to reviewing and evaluating key milestones is required for accountability and integrity.  Educational resources coupled with public awareness and youth engagement are core to developing a more mature future for all Australians.

For more from Sue-Yen, read her Riflessioni sull'ANZAC Day, her contribution to Cosa c'è in un nome? and advocacy with Green’s Senator meeting.

Risorsa

Read ICAVs small collation on Color blindness in Adoption

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